By Johanna Ferebee
As a fifth grader, Dawson Newman was quite the Rooty Rascal.
Sponsored by the Harbor Island Garden Club since 1984, the Rooty Rascals are a group of junior garden club members and Wrightsville Beach School students who learn the importance of gardening and environmental consciousness from an early age. Now a junior at Hoggard High School, Newman still has the rascal spirit in mind.
As a student in the first year of Hoggard’s International Baccalaureate program, Newman is required to complete 150 hours of service over an 18-month period through a creative activity service project. With the garden still in mind, Newman created the upcoming charitable event Hope Inspires Giving at Christmas to take place in Harbor Way Gardens.
From the weekend after Thanksgiving through Dec. 18, Newman will host the service project at Harbor Way Gardens each Saturday and Sunday from 6-8 p.m. Amidst specialty seasonal lighting, handmade decorations and hot cocoa, Newman will collect $10 donations for Christmas Hope ornaments to hang within the garden. He encourages donors to write their Christmas hopes and wishes onto the beach ball-shaped ornaments.
From “love” to “laptop,” the garden is transforming into a beacon of the holiday spirit. Newman has garnered more than 15 sponsors and has raised more than $1,300 so far.
Proceeds will be given to local families in need this holiday season.
A portion of these donations have already been used to hire Wilmington Uplighting to illuminate the garden.
“When you’re just driving past, you can’t really see it that well and it’s really nice on the inside,” Newman said. “It’s kind of underappreciated.”
In addition to giving back to the community, Newman’s goal for the project is to draw people in and to transform the garden into more of an attraction.
“It’s incredible how many local people don’t even know it’s there,” said garden club chairperson Elise Running. “I’m just thrilled. Great for Dawson, for the garden and for the fact that the money is staying locally.”
To organize the event, Newman worked with Running to gain the support of garden club members. Running revealed the decision was an easy one.
“The fact that he was a former Rooty Rascal makes it more special,” Running said.
Starting Saturday, Nov. 26 following the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla, the garden will be lit and ready to be decorated with ornaments of holiday hope.
If all goes well this time around, Newman hopes to continue this new holiday observance for years to come.
“I want to just provide a good thing for the community and give back. That’s what I’m really trying to do,” he said.
Hope Inspires Giving at Christmas will accept donations on Saturday, Nov. 26 after the Flotilla; and Nov. 27, Dec. 3-4, Dec. 10-11 and Dec. 17-18 from 6-8 p.m.